F-22 vs F-35: no contest

I quoted Richard Aboulafia last week expressing skepticism that the US Air Force would actually sacrifice the cause of buying more F-22s in order to give the F-35 program a needed funding boost.

This morning, Aboulafia’s argument gets an unwitting assist from the Air Force Association.

The air force’s main advocacy and lobbying group posted a new presentation to their website today. The brief is titled, “F-22 vs. F-35 comparison”, and the conclusions are heavily stacked in favor of the former.

In fact, I’m curious what several foreign governments will think after having invested hundreds of millions to billions of dollars in the F-35′s development, largely because of performance promises from a US government that apparently doesn’t really like the fighter.

Here’s a few examples of how the brief compares the two fighters:

  • The F-22 can turn at twice the rate of an F-35
  • F-22A in production…F-35A initial operational capability date is 2013…key in considering F-15Cs need to be replaced now
  • ‘Apples to Apples’ or normalized comparison on unit cost would have to consider equal production quantities. Unit costs based on an F-35 buy of 183 and an F-22 buy of 1763 would result in significantly greater F-35 unit cost than current estimates

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37 Responses to F-22 vs F-35: no contest

  1. eg 20 October, 2008 at 2:36 pm #

    Oh boy,
    After this I can see both programs getting squashed by an incoming adminstration. One costs too much and the other isn’t good enough.
    If I recall, the JSF was supposed to be less capable and cost less so we could buy more.
    I wonder how much this compares the F-15 vs F-16 games 30 years ago. Is this deja moo? (deja moo is the feeling you’ve heard this b### s### before.)

  2. John S. 20 October, 2008 at 2:51 pm #

    “Unit Flyaway Costs” don’t drastically change when the order volume changes. However, this AFA paper quotes Unit Flyaway Costs for the F-22 as $142.7M, then states if the production numbers were reversed the F-35 would “result in significantly greater F-35 unit cost than current estimates.” Perhaps, but only if you factor in development costs, which is NOT unit flyaway costs.

    However, when you do factor in development costs, then each of the 183 F-22s costs the US closer to $350M. If (a big ‘if’) the F-22 is ever sold to allied nations, the price tag had better reflect more than just the unit flyaway costs. It better include a big surcharge for R&D that the US taxpayer already provided.

    So, if we are to follow the AFA’s advice and drop the F-35 in favor of more F-22s, then let’s talk about the F-22′s superior ground attack modes over the F-35. Let’s talk about the F-22′s superior helmet mounted cueing system. Let’s talk about the F-22′s superior operational costs. Let’s talk about the F-22′s superior non-stealth A-G payload. Oh wait, we can’t. The F-22′s A-G capability is as limited as the F-35′s A-A capability.

    The F-35 was never sold as being a superior A-A aircraft than the F-22. It was to be the equal to the F-16 or F/A-18A-C in both A-A and A-G, with limited first day stealth, second day non-stealth. Likewise, the F-16 was never sold as a superior A-A aircraft than the F-15C. However, there are many F-16s flying CAP over the United States anyway.

  3. chris b 22 October, 2008 at 3:28 am #

    comparing these two aircraft are like comparing apples to oranges! first off the f-22 has vectoring engines and the f-35 wont so i believe that the f-35 wont stand a chance in a dogfight. but the real backbone of are military is allways gonna be the great reliable f-16 and the f-18 super hornets hands down because of cost!!

  4. ColHensen 11 July, 2009 at 5:46 pm #

    Missing the point guys. F-22 designed for air superiority. Intercept, air-to-air, stealth FIGHTER.
    F-35 multi-role fighter-bomber for close ground support, air-to-surface target destruction. 3 versions; Air Force- Support, stealth fighter-bomber, Navy- STOL fighter-bomber with stealth capability that F-18 just don’t have, Marines- Vertical take off/ Harrier replacement with supersonic capability (Harrier does not have) for close ground support.
    They are entirely different aircraft for different roles!

  5. scrinmemphis 31 July, 2009 at 5:03 pm #

    You want it “Fast”, “Cheap”, or “Good”… pick 2.

  6. Victor Christian 31 July, 2009 at 7:46 pm #

    Don’t forget – without air superiority you won;t have a chance for air-to-gound action. Without the F-22 to gain that air supeiority, the F-35 will be easy picking for some of the current as well as all of the future aircraft it will encounter.

  7. AQ 6 August, 2009 at 10:06 pm #

    Think some people are still missing the point

    F-22 Raptor Fighter-Interceptor/Air superiority

    F-35 Lighting 2 Fighter-Bomber/Close air support /Attack aircraft capable of air to air like the multirole role fighter like the f-16 fighting falcon and not intended to be a dedicated air to air fighter Like the F-15 A-Cs or F-22 Raptor

  8. AQ 6 August, 2009 at 10:06 pm #

    Think some people are still missing the point

    F-22 Raptor Fighter-Interceptor/Air superiority

     F-35 Lighting 2 Fighter-Bomber/Close air support /Attack aircraft capable of air to air like the multirole role fighter like the f-16 fighting falcon and not intended to be a dedicated air to air fighter Like the F-15 A-Cs or F-22 Raptor

  9. AJ 404 2 September, 2009 at 2:04 pm #

    How can we get the decision to cancel the F-22 reversed?

  10. flybynite 16 September, 2009 at 10:49 pm #

    lst lets just distribute all monies that go to the defense of the country to those who dont produce anything, but leach off of USA…….then they can spend it fast on themselves, before we all speak Russian/Chinese, cause we wont have F-22s to defend us!!!!

  11. lol 29 October, 2009 at 2:14 pm #

    You have two different air craft, but really in this topic there is atleast 4, 3 different designs alone on the F-35 and one that i know of on the F-22, this is a bit of common sense here it shows that one plane cannot have/do everything. Please take a step back then look at it with a more calm mind and stop looking into details. If they really wanted the F-22 to have the new technology that the F-35 has they would just refit the F-22 and modernize it. Next time look at the overall picture before you get into detail it can save you a lot of time and fustration

  12. lol 29 October, 2009 at 2:25 pm #

    If they gov’t is really afraid of the cost then why don’t they cut their own d### budgets first geting 90% of their pay after they leave office for life. Also if they are so afraid of poverty and healthcare in America then stop sending money to countries over seas and use it on healthcare and poverty. So many logical answers to providing funding for the F-35 and F-42 that its not even funny. Best part is we don’t choose any of them. Need to have a Common Sense 101 class. But anyways there is a straight cut choice here and it is FUND THE MILITARY. It provides more jobs than most buisnesses, you want a stimulus then increase spending on the military, not only do the jobs include the US marine corps US air force and the US navy but it also includes production and manufactoring which we aren’t dumb enough to send over seas, yet. Getting back to my point of military spending, Reagan was praised for doing this in the 80′s.

  13. lol 29 October, 2009 at 2:27 pm #

    By the way since when has america really cared about what other nations think of us. its not that i think we should alienate them but WHY CARE NOW.

  14. lol 29 October, 2009 at 2:28 pm #

    By the way since when has america really cared about what other nations think of us. its not that i think we should alienate them but WHY START CARING NOW.

  15. lol 29 October, 2009 at 2:31 pm #

    My only problem with the F-35 is it’s one Whittny Pratt engine that has a top speed of 1.3 mach. The SR-71 Blackbird wen 3.3mach top speed and 3.1 mach cruising speed. We have engines in near to finished research and can provide us with mach 4 engines while NASA has a mach 7 and mach 10 engine in long term research. theres much more than statistics to look for between both planes. By the way if you want this to be a big deal in politics you need to educate the people not blogg about it.

  16. lol 29 October, 2009 at 2:33 pm #

    My only problem with the F-35 is it’s one Whittny Pratt engine that has a top speed of 1.3 mach. The SR-71 Blackbird wen 3.3mach top speed and 3.1 mach cruising speed. We have engines in near to finished research and can provide us with mach 4 engines while NASA has a mach 7 and mach 10 engine in long term research. theres much more than statistics to look for between both planes. By the way if you want this to be a big deal in politics you need to educate the people, not blogg about it. Also something a bit off topic is that it is already proven with the weapon and missile advancements on the F-35 manueverability is obsolete

  17. lol 29 October, 2009 at 2:34 pm #

    My only problem with the F-35 is it’s one Whittny Pratt engine that has a top speed of 1.3 mach. The SR-71 Blackbird went 3.3mach top speed and 3.1 mach cruising speed. We have engines in near to finished research and can provide us with mach 4 engines while NASA has a mach 7 and mach 10 engine in long term research. theres much more than statistics to look for between both planes. By the way if you want this to be a big deal in politics you need to educate the people, not blogg about it. Also something a bit off topic is that it is already proven with the weapon and missile advancements on the F-35 manueverability is obsolete

  18. Spock 3 March, 2010 at 8:32 pm #

    If we are lucky, and Obama turns out to be a one-term President like Carter, his successor can reinstate F-22 production, just as Reagan overrulled Carter’s decision to stop producing the B-1.

  19. yadayada 13 May, 2010 at 2:27 am #

    This is ridiculous. US fighters going up against the PAK FA / J-XX? When that happens, my friends, the ICBMs are coming out and no matter who happens to be flying ‘unchallenged!’ over the Pacific Ocean everything important will be destroyed. It doesn’t matter a bit that we’ve canceled the F-22. “Even more advanced!” Russian/Chinese/whomever fighters don’t come into the equation at all. Why? We’re not going to fight the Russians or Chinese, and if we do the whole damn world’s going to end. At worst we’ll be fighting the Iranians or North Koreans, and our pilots are so much better we could destroy them with our old stockpiles of F-16s and F-18/As, even if Russia or China were crazy enough to supply either of those whacked-out countries with their 5th Gen fighters. More likely, we’ll be fighting against irregulars who can’t field anything more advanced than a paper airplane, so it doesn’t matter. What matters is counterinsurgency strategy, not aviation hardware, and you guys are just stuck in the fantasy of a conventional WWIII, the kind of thing that couldn’t have happened since the late 50′s.

  20. usaf365 29 June, 2010 at 4:33 pm #

    Im curently in the usaf and i love reading about this topic, but im sry to say that some of u r wrong. A dogfight between these planes would most likely end up in a win for the f 35. The f22 is ment for air domination but its ment to fight planes that dont have stealth capabilities. The radar is bigger on the f22 and has more weapons but it wouldnt matter because he wouldnt lock in till he saw the f35 so it would b all about maneuverability.

  21. Daniel 15 July, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    I completely agree with Yadayada!

  22. pheonixreborne 27 July, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    To Yadayada, i patialy agree with what you are saying eccept for one thing, China would definatly be invoved, if we went to war with North Korea. Where do you thing Noeth Korea has been geting all of there support for nucliar amament has been coming from??? Thus the only place we can be at war with without risking WWIII is in the middle east.

  23. jeff 4 September, 2010 at 1:34 am #

    Some very good comments. I don’t see why they could not have vectored thrust for the F-35 in case it finds itself in a real dog fight (F-4 never had a gun!). Also, why is the payload so low for the AF version? Seem to be what the F-100 could carry in Nam. I think the 1.3 mach with full weapons load would be okay if it could do it without AB. Seems this performance envelope was designed by a team with one arm tied behind their back.

  24. SullyBear 25 November, 2010 at 3:59 am #

    All I know is that the f22 has a 144 to 0 kill ratio in tests, and can clean clock 6 planes before they even know its there. I haven’t seen any statistics on the f35 yet but it would be great to have some statistics for it to compare. The f22 also has the designation of “Air Superiority Fighter”, whereas the f35 is a “Fighter-Bomber/Close air support /Attack Aircraft”.

  25. F-22 and F-35 programs obsolete? 2 December, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

    The F-22 and F-35 programs are already obsolete. The US Military needs to eliminate manned fighter jet programs altogether and replace them with much more maneuverable and less expensive unmanned vehicles. Manned fighter jets are a thing of the past and will not survive attacks from stealthy unmanned opponents!

  26. Michael Rowland 28 December, 2010 at 7:08 pm #

    Now completely correct. The F-35 is being designed to complete several functions/roles. It will be used as a bomber, a fighter and even take on the role of a harrier jet while the F-22 will simply be the best fighter jet ever produced. The Air Force, the Navy and the Marines will all use the base F-35.

  27. Passer by 30 December, 2010 at 8:16 am #

    Let me just weigh in, as the comments I’ve read seem rather ill-informed. The F-22 is an expensive, first-strike aircraft. It was never meant to be purchased in large numbers or form the backbone of american assault aircraft. As has been the effective strategy in recent conflicts, it ‘sanitizes’ the conflict zone (superhornets perform a similar role) and once the enemy’s air defences are disorganized, masses of F-35s come in as the workhorse of the allied assault. This follows a cold war strategy and is how the aircraft were intended to work together. I do not believe less than 200 F-22′s would be sufficient for a protracted war with China or Russia but putting tons more resources into their procurement is not currently justified. I also do not think it can be said that military spending is taking a back seat when 1000′s of F-35′s will be purchased. And after decades of continued testing and development they are simply the most advanced aircraft available. Remotely controlled UAV’s are not up to the task of combat sorties. And as far as mach 3+ engines, the blackbird was not designed for low-level combat maneuvers and it had serious heating issues. We may have high-speed engine technologies, but we don’t have the materials to withstand the air friction incurred, not to mention very few air combat missions require such high speeds (which is why we have few high-speed raptors and will have many lower speed Lightning II’s). And the last thing I want to say is reducing government pay roles will not only lower the quality of people entering government, but it will in no way compare to the budget required to significantly increase military hardware. Thanks, just had to get some of that out.

  28. TFM 9 January, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    I may be showing my age. This sounds like McNamara’s TFX idea that developed into the F-111. The F-35 is an effort to make a jack of all trades, master of few. we need a number of both. I was just looking at a report that China will start flight testing their stealth platform soon. With China’s ambition and North Korea’s stability as factors, it’s too dangerous to make the mistakes of the past.

  29. JRocket 2 February, 2011 at 2:52 am #

    ill-informed you say? everything you stated in that paragraph was immediately discredited the moment you associated the pay roll of Govt. officials with the quality of the service they provide. Most of them we very wealthy before they ever took office, we could use some with more knowledge and less interest. I hear the F-22 being referred too as a goose argueing that it’s good at almost everything but has no real role. Correct me if I’m wrong but is it not the most capable air superiority aircraft in the history of aerial warfare? The people who don’t see the need for it have never been in combat wishing they had the bigger stick. Spending money saves lives, saving lives protects a nation, protecting a nation is the Govt’s job. Too provide for which we cannot reasonably provide for ourselves.

  30. JRocket 2 February, 2011 at 3:02 am #

    I say ditch the STOVL F-35, purchase the f-22 as an f-15 replacement, If the rest of the F-35 models exceed performance expectations purchase them to replace current fast attack role aircraft. Issue a requirement for two seperate aircraft first a STOVL attack aircraft designed specifically for that purpose, not a variant in need of conversion with costly development time and funds and secondly a Naval Air Superiority fighter to protect the attack aircraft and the fleet.

  31. Top Gun 30 April, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    F-35 is an expensive edsel. F-22 is the real deal. Just politics at play. So nice of the Americians to pressure other countries to buy the F-35 to help with unit costs. I would bet the F-18E is the better fighter for battle at half the cost.

  32. billyo 20 May, 2011 at 5:29 am #

    f4 with no gun jeff….sorry the e model i worked on sure did (68E ). the f22 ensures the US maintains a technological advantage long into the future, and that never hurts the developement of the kid in school.

  33. Robby House 15 June, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

    I agree with comments made earlier. I do hope the current Commander In Chief gets relieved of his duties in early 2013 and we have a new administration that will reactivate the F-22 program for production of perhaps 70 or so more units. I think 250 F-22′s sounds about right. I think there probably needs to be a 1 to 3 Raptor/Lightening ratio for a good balance. Meaning there would be 750 F-35′s produced. I can tell you there’s no way we’re going to follow through with manufacturing 2,440 units as is the current plan! Wishful thinking! Anyone half paying attention to our fiscal nightmare will know this. In all actuality before too long we’ll be lucky to be able to afford sustaining the military’s legacy fighters and weapons systems let alone consider new procurement.

    And for the record YES the F-22 is by far the more desirable of the two, but each has its own unique set of capabilities and purpose. But I wouldn’t waste too much time contemplating the matter.

  34. JNG 17 August, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

    A few important factors that have been overlooked.
    The f-35 is designed to require far fewer maintenance man hours per hour of flight time vs the f-22. The f-22 also never gets deployed outside of the USA because of it’s maintenance requirements. The f-22 cannot maintain true stealth for more than one day outside the USA, and it’s level of stealth degrades every day after the first until i believe the third day it’s just an improved f-15.

    Part of the rationale behind the f-35 is to mitigate the large costs associated with maintaining 4.5 different aircraft in the fleet which all use different parts. (f-16, f-15, av8h, and the two hornets which i counted as 1.5 aircraft models). Instead of all of those aircraft we will have one platform with three variants, so while the costs of operating a stealth aircraft largely undo the gains of using one platform, it beats a minimum 40% increase in costs associated with developing 4 different stealth replacements for each.

    Having said that, the f-22 while being the most capable aircraft in the world can’t really be included in any argument except one that regards an invasion of United States territory. Therefore the questions have to all be directed at the f-35 program. The concept of having a single platform is solid, probably unbeatable in fact. Question is, could we use the developments from the f-35 into a remade f-22 or something like that and get an even better product? Potentially the problem now is that then we end up with another 10 year capability gap during development and deployment. For what the f-35 can already do vs what other governments can do AND deploy, it is probably more than capable. As it stands, Russia and India are only deploying ~200-300 PAK FA each vs the total 1800 f-35′s that the USA will be fielding.

    Given the other technology gaps that the USA has an advantage with, and the probability that our competitors aircraft will probably be less capable than the f-22 and only marginally more capable than the f-35 if that, and our training edge, we’re still a ways ahead.

  35. Gerry 23 August, 2011 at 1:07 am #

    What something is ‘designed to do’ (such as cut maintenance costs etc.) and what BS selling point was floated out there to get its approval and then what it ACTUALLU costs to maintain the thing are grossly two different things. And let us not push aside cost over runs and all the other headaches that pop up during actual production and funding.

    Bottom line is that the F-22 and the F–35 are in-fact two different aircraft desigend for two different and specific roles. I can’t see cutting funding for one over the other. Anyone with half a brain knowss that without air superiorty during a conflict, the battle is all but lost. Let’s keep them both and quit the bickering. You sure don’t hear Lockheed crying over all of this do you???

  36. anonymous... 19 September, 2011 at 5:06 am #

    Ok, ok, ok, the f22 would definitely beat the f35 in a dogfight. That isn’t important though! The f35 is A THIRD OF THE PRICE, and it is almost as stealthy (ex: f16 detected at 200km; f35 detected at 25; f22 detected at around 10 approx.) (if you are going at least the speed of sound, it wouldn’t matter if you were 25km or 10km away from where you were detected because you would be long gone by the time they got in the air!) My point is, we don’t actually NEED f22s, even though the f35 isn’t as good. Maybe in a few years, start making a lot of f22s, but nowadays, we DON’T NEED THE TECHNOLOGY THAT WE CANT EVEN AFFORD!

  37. f15 vs f16(NOT THIS AGAIN!) 19 September, 2011 at 5:33 am #

    LOLZ 100% correct!!!
    One is toooooo expensive and the other one isn’t as good, and in the future we will wish that we hadn’t made 2,000 decent planes when somebody else comes out with something better than the f35s; which is when we will need the f22s that we should have made already!!!

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